*****This review was originally posted in the Sunday Independent on 30th Jan 2017.*****
Books: Memoir reveals socialite's shocking addiction
Memoir: How To Murder Your Life, Cat Marnell, Ebury Press, €17.99
Memoirs of addicts can result in the same, formulaic stories. Miserable childhood, distant parents, lack of self-esteem and the 'victim of circumstance'. Add some alcohol, narcotics or gambling and you have a fully-formed addict. A few trips to rehab, followed by an overwhelming feeling of God's presence, generally will produce a reformed junkie. However, it's uncommon to come across an addict who blames no-one but themselves. Cat Marnell seems to take responsibility for her own journey to addiction yet, reading her memoir, this rings untrue.
Born into an affluent family, living in a beautiful home just 20 minutes from the White House, her father, a renowned psychiatrist, her mother a psychotherapist, she basically raised herself. As a teen, she discovered that ADHD medication improved her grades and she got her father to regularly prescribe it.
She began hanging out with party-loving, credit-card wielding students who spent their weekends in top-class hotels and feeding her new addiction to amphetamines.
"They were the coolest people I'd ever met, even if they weren't the nicest. I wanted to be in their in-crowd so badly that I'd overlook their oft-questionable behaviour."
Still a very young and naive girl, Marnell found herself in situations that were cringe-worthy at best and abusive at worst. Things deteriorated at a rapid rate and she found herself expelled before graduation. There was a traumatic termination, badly-timed attempts at rehab and a move to NYC.
Money was never an issue for the socialite, thanks to her wealthy family. She began interning for glossy magazines and, despite her chronic addiction, she gradually moved up through the ranks for various publications. Friendships were still short-lived and mismatched, seeing her experimenting with heroin and sinking to a new low.
Now she was seeking new doctors to prescribe more pills (uppers, downers, anything she could get her hands on) and her life was a blur of champagne launches, exclusive clubs, crack, cocaine, heroin and complete degradation. Food became an issue and bulimia came knocking at her open door.
Functioning as a beauty editor became more difficult and her behaviour was erratic. "I'd never cried at the office before, but now I couldn't stop. The tears dripped on the keyboard as I continued 'working' on this story. Wretched, guttural sobs kept bursting out of my body […] SOB! I was weirding everyone out. SOB!"
Cat knew she was a junkie, but wanted no help. She was forced into rehab by her boss, then again by her parents. The expensive, luxury clinic worked for a limited time; the state- run one was a disaster. Despite all this, she managed to impress people with her on-line rants and extremely personal, raw and funny anecdotes.
Her social media posts shocked and wowed new publication xoJane and (ironically) she was given the opportunity to become their Beauty and Health director. Her unreliability saw more career moves and rehab in Thailand.
Unsurprisingly, there are huge gaps in her tale but the overall happy-go-lucky party girl persona does not sit easy. There is an underlying sadness beneath the strong, sassy and humorous words. She may say that she does not blame anyone for her addiction, but it is not completely convincing. It is a relief that she does not thank God for her recovery; in fact, she readily admits she is not 100pc recovered. "By keeping away from AA or NA, I remain in the danger zone. Things could - and probably will - get bad again!"
This memoir is designed to shock. A compelling, voyeuristic look at the socialite life and how the dream can be completely airbrushed, How To Murder Your Life is all about functioning addiction and the darkness behind the glittering facade.
How To Murder Your Life is published by ebury press and is available in HB and ebook format.